In Namibia there are six basic groups of indigenous people, some of which you can meet while on a Namibia tour.

The San, Nama, Ovahimba, Ovazemba, Ovatjimba and Ovatwa all have a home here and of these groups there are also sub-groups.

An interesting fact is that while these are the original people of the desert nation, in Namibia there is no national legislation that deals directly or recognizes the rights of indigenous people.

San

The name San is actually a collective name used for all Khoisan speaking people.  Also sometimes referred to as Bushmen, these people have a gene pattern that dates back about 80 000 years which makes them direct descendants of the very first humans on earth.

It is even thought that other nationalities all descended from them.

The original San people were nomadic hunter-gatherers.  They moved around throughout the year in their search for water, game and other edible plants.

San people would traditionally live in groups of 10 to 15 and had no leader. The women are considered equal and decisions are made in groups.  Any disagreements in the group results in long discussion to resolve the issue.

During the summer months they erect temporary structures and during the winter months more stable structures are erected, usually close to a water source.

Men were responsible for the hunting to feed the whole group.  This is done with a bow and arrow which is hand-made. The tips of the arrows are dipped in poison that is made from ground beetles.  Women would go out and gather either fruit, berries, insects or ostrich eggs.  Ostrich eggs are carefully emptied and then used to store water.

Nama

The Nama people are often referred to as Hottentots and originally lived around the Orange River in the South of Namibia.  Today there are about 60 000 Nama people in Namibia and they are thought to be descendants of the Khoikhoi.

In contrast to the San, the Nama people are shepherds having communal ownership of land, which means nobody owns the land but they all have free access to it and can freely use it as they need too. Their huts are built in a way that they can easily be dismantled and moved when the pastures in that area become scarce.

Traditionally, the Nama people love telling stories and sharing poems, folk tales and music.  These are often passed down for many generations.  This is a key aspect of their culture and identity.

Ovahimba

Today there are about 20 000 living in the Kaokoveld area of Namibia and to this day they are semi-nomadic people.  The Ovahimba people are the original Herero who crossed the Kunene and came from Angola in the middle of the 16th century.

Ovahimba are monotheistic people and believe in Mukuru (the creator of the world).  This god is vague and distant, so the belief in ancestral spirits is far more essential.  Ancestral spirits are said to have received supernatural qualities from Mukuru.  The spirits therefore have power to influence the living as they are acting as a go between Mukuru and the living.

Ovahimba people live in large homesteads with their extended families.  Most Ovahimba men have two wives, each in their own hut, with the main wife’s hut is opposite the entrance to the kraal.